Blind in One Eye

On a recent trip to New York, the following thing happened; I am using my Macbook Pro and suddenly Finder and Safari both lock up, showing me the rolling beach ball of eternity and refusing to do much else. Consequently, I press my finger to the power button until my machine shuts itself off so I can reboot and start again.

Aside: This happens a lot more than it did on Windows. But I am somehow more forgiving of it on my Apple. I am asked repeatedly “Did you try to force quit the application?” to which I always reply “Of course” while thinking to myself, “Why should I the need to continually force-quit applications be any better than the need to continually force-boot the whole blasted mess?” But I digress.

After rebooting and hearing the familiar Apple “Taa daaah!” start up chime, I am greeted with a dark screen and nothing else. No sign from the universe that the OS is starting up, no login, nothing but a big, black, blank screen.


Panic does not set in immediately because 1) I am on vacation in New York and should have better things to do with my time than spend more hours in front of a computer anyway, 2) I have a complete Time Machine back-up back home in case, you know, I’m suddenly fucked and 3) there are new Macbook Pro models out that are sexier than this one.

After trying several things suggested by several people more Mac-savvy than I (“Did you try to remove the battery and press the power button to clear the something or other?” “Did you hold down the something and press something to clear the e-prom doohicky thingamabob?” “Did you throw it at the wall? How many times?”) it is decided that the thing has succumbed to the now infamous Nvidia 8300M bad video card plague and the hard drive is “probably” okay, but I cannot see anything at all.

This morning, during a 9am Genius Bar visit (side note: If you need to visit the Genius Bar at your local Apple store for any reason, make an appointment before 10am. The store here doesn’t open until 10am, but accepts Genius Bar appointments starting at 8am. If you arrive for an early apointment, a nice Apple employee will personally escort you to the Genius Bar, get your essentials, log you in to your appointment and take good care of you in your hour of need. So much better than trying to contend with a packed store filled with looky-loos while you’re fretting over your broken thingie) I was informed that, yes, it is very likely that the video card has failed since, like, no video works at all but the hard drive appears to be “all there.” So, yay, good for me, something went wrong but it was half-expected anyway and now it’s happened and it’ll get fixed for free.

Upon returning home, I started trying to figure out what to do without my main computer for the 3-5 days it will take to get it back. I have a Mac mini I usually use as a media server to house all my music, movies and TV shows and I hooked it up to my Cinema Display and it’s making due after loading its poor little low-power CPU and 1Gb of RAM with Photoshop, Coda, Transmit, Office and every other “essential” application that gets me through the workday, but it lacks everything personal that I have loaded on my laptop.

I’ve never had this happen to me before, and I suddenly feel like I’ve gone partially blind. Safari on my laptop remembers all my logins and passwords. Do you realize how often you have to login to something? It’s a freaking lot. None of the docs I was working with are here. None of the files. None of the little personalized traits like the apps in the dock, the apps on the desktop, the icons in the top right. Everything is just slightly off. It feels really weird.

Now, I know as well as you who are already itching to add your comment to this post that “Time Machine backs up your entire computer so you can easily recreate it!” or “It only takes a few hours to load the applications you need and start over,” that you’re missing the point so let me make it more clear. What I realized as I walked into my living space sans the piece of my life that holds all my data and the carefully arranged environment I stare at more than almost anything else and the nearly effortless connection I have to the online world is that being without it made me feel oddly disabled.

Part of what I take for granted is that I can go look at my computer screen and inhabit that world comfortably and with a familiarity that I don’t find anywhere else. When I used to drive, I kind of had that connection to my car. Key in hand, seat arranged just so, controls where I like them, foot on the pedal, and off I go. My computer is like that, only multiplied by, like, a million.
You can always remove yourself from it by choice, for sure. Go on computer vacation and never check e-mail (unless you have an iPhone) and never get WiFi access in your hotel room and never worry about what’s going on the world at CNN.com or NYTimes.com or the blogs you regularly check or the friends who live — at least partially — online. Frankly, I’ve tried it and it sucks. It’s too much a part of my life now, rather than a peripheral of it. I rely on my computer and the web to be part of my life, and when the familiarity of my own computer is taken away from me, even when it’s replaced by another one, I am left lost and forlorn.

I’m surprised by this, but I shouldn’t be. The laptopification of my life is now complete, and it’s both comforting and jarring. One arm doesn’t work. My leg has gone numb. I’ve lost the ability to taste saltiness. I am blind in one eye.

Where’s my laptop?

October 27, 2008

2 responses to Blind in One Eye

  1. sfmitch said:

    Sorry to hear about your laptop troubles.
    You should check out 1Password. It stores usernames & passwords and is a great program. The great thing is mobile me keeps everything synch’d between my Macbook Pro & iMac. No matter where I create a 1Password item, I can access it on either computer (or the iPhone, come to think of it).
    As for backups – I use Time Machine but I also clone my drive (Carbon Copy Cloner) on a regular basis. I want the ability to boot into ‘my mac’ from any computer if the need arises.

  2. James Dean said:

    I am currently going through this same thing right now, suffering almost as much as you sound like you did. It was working just fine one moment, and then the next moment no more visuals. I restarted and it never came back. Like you though, my data was fine, but without a Time Machine backup (stupid, I know), I had to put it into target disk mode and use a friend’s mac to copy the entire harddrive over night. I dropped it off for repair last Saturday and they just called me today to inform me it’s just now being shipped off to the warehouse. Guess I’ll be without it longer than they let on.
    As for your settings and so forth, you should consider MobileMe (as was briefly mentioned in the previous comment). When it comes to having multiple macs, MobileMe will sync your favorites, contacts, documents, and even the apps that display on your dock. It’s almost like having the same computer twice. I only have the one Mac for now, but MobileMe is worth it to me for the online backup as well. Just a thought. :-)

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